Sharpton Leads Atlanta Rally on Gun Violence


(APN) ATLANTA — The Rev. Al Sharpton was in Atlanta Monday, November 23, 2009, to lead a National Day of Outrage against urban gun violence.

Sharpton, speaking from the National Action Network (NAN) Southeast headquarters in the West End, drew a line in the sand against drug pushers and gang leaders.

“We must be just as outraged when those who look like us, live with us, and claim to be us, kill us,” he said. “Those who are parasites who are living off our community are worse than those living outside our community and doing harm to our community.”

Mary-Pat Hector, President of Youth in Action, told APN her Atlanta-based, youth-managed group just kicked off a year-long campaign called Shake It Off, which aims to encourage young people to shake off violence and choose a better path.

“The streets isn’t the only way to live,” she said. “If you live big, I believe your dreams can come true.”

Hector told APN she spoke to Sharpton on his nationally syndicated radio program in October 2009 and asked him how his group might help.

“[NAN] wanted to stop violence in their communities,” she said. “They wanted to choose the world like us. It’s nice to know there are adults out there who want to hear what we have to say.”

Michael Rogers, a member of Youth In Action, said he got beaten twice by gang members at his school but refused to join them.

“They did all the worst things they could possibly do and I still told them no,” Rogers said.

He told APN young people should “get into any type of club they can get into to dream big” and “do whatever’s necessary to make a good impression on our youth.”

“There’s a lot more for teens to get into than trouble,” he said. “They should stay in school. The streets are not a good place to be. I don’t wish that on anybody.”

The Rev. Samuel Mostella, President of the Georgia chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), told APN young people should refocus on education.

“Their mind has been taken by the media,” he said. “The media is not a foundation.”

Mostella said it is also important for to “strengthen the Black family.”

“The Black family has been broken up and if we don’t strengthen the Black community, we’re gonna have some problems.”

Sirlena Cobb has dedicated herself to keeping children on the right path since her son Christopher Richardson was found murdered 30 years ago. She told APN that youth need a chance for employment and to know that “we care.”

“They have a look in their eye like they just don’t care,” she said.

Derrick Grissom, President of the Atlanta chapter of the National Action Network, said the recent spike in youth urban violence led his group to mobilize.

“We need to partner together and take a stand to let the city know we care,” he said. “Then we need to develop a plan that we can implement.”

Twenty-eight other US cities, including St. Louis, Chicago, and New York, rallied against violence in their communities.

“We have the power today to decide our own destiny,” Dr. Kenneth Samuel, pastor of Victory Church, said. “We can end violence when we decide to talk to our young people.”

“If not us, who?” he added. “If not now, when? If not here, where?”

About the author:

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at

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